Related quotes: How we see it

Nor can we ever rid ourselves entirely of the views of our own time and personality, and here, perhaps, is the worst enemy of knowledge. The clearest proof of this is this: as soon as history approaches our century and our worthy selves we find everything more ‘interesting’; in actual fact it is we who are more interested.

Jacob Burckhardt, Reflections on History, 1872

Preferring, as their [art-historians] practice is, mere abstract theories to practical examination, it is their wont to look at a picture as if it were a mirror, in which, as a rule, they see nothing but the reflection of their own minds.

Giovanni Morelli, Italian Painters, 1890

Latin resource

I can see many situations where this site will be extremely useful. Latin quotes and phrases come up quite frequently in art-historical texts, and surprisingly often in everyday life, too.

UPDATE 26/2/06: But there doesn’t appear to be a search facility, which makes it less than useful (I hesitate to say useless, because it’s not).

Goethe on the rampage

This is the way things wag: the artist’s whim serves the rich man’s wilfulness: the topographer gapes, and our dilettanti, called philosophers, lathe out of protoplastic fables rules and history of the fine arts down to now, and true men are murdered by the evil Genius in the forecourt of the mysteries.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Of German Architecture, 1772

Harsh words for those of Goethe’s period who would value Antique/Classical over Gothic architecture.

Social collaboration in art

How do we judge art made ‘socially’ – and how are we judging it? I’ve recently read a number of pieces that deal with this subject and here I’ve pulled some quotes from three pieces: Claire Bishop in this February’s Artforum and Big RED and Shiny’s interview with Mel Ziegler and review of his and Kate Ericson’s show at MIT List Visual Art Center.

Claire Bishop The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents Artforum February 2006:

But the urgency of this political task has led to a situation in which such collaborative practices are automatically perceived to be equally important artistic gestures of resistance: There can be no failed, unsuccessful, unresolved, or boring works of collaborative art because all are equally essential to the task of strengthening the social bond. …I would argue that it is also crucial to discuss, analyze, and compare such work critically as art.

What serious criticism has arisen…is framed in a particular way: The social turn in contemporary art has prompted an ethical turn in art criticism. This is manifest in a heightened attention to how a given collaboration is undertaken.

…discomfort and frustration…can…be crucial elements of a work’s aesthetic impact…The best examples of socially collaborative art give rise to these—and many other—effects…

It is to this art—however uncomfortable, exploitative, or confusing it may first appear—that we must turn for an alternative to the well-intentioned homilies that today pass for critical discourse on social collaboration. These homilies unwittingly push us toward a Platonic regime in which art is valued for its truthfulness and educational efficacy rather than for inviting us—as Dogville did—to confront darker, more painfully complicated considerations of our predicament.

Micah J. Malone A Conversation with Mel Ziegler Big RED and Shiny 37:

Micah Malone: One of the striking things about the work is the reciprocal process between the budgets, collectors, the constituents within the groups you engage and the final product of your research. Can you elaborate on the entropy with these money exchanges and other things?

Mel Ziegler: Well it’s not always money, sometimes its just pragmatic things like painting somebody’s house or repairing a sidewalk. The financial things happen to be more in relationship with the art market itself.

… I know Kate and I were genuine and I know a lot of the artists in Culture in Action were genuine, but then you also have to deal with how the institution is framing the project and that is a whole other issue.

… So, I think that we knew that the language, this kind of context of the art gallery and museums, was not necessarily a bad thing, it’s where the dialogue happens. But how do you engage it and still do the other work. So, I don’t think we were against one or the other, I think in order to make that work interesting both of those things had to exist. … That was what we always attempted to do, even with our museum projects, to have this dialogue that was beyond the walls …

Christian Holland Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler @ MIT List Big RED and Shiny 37:

Christo’s work also influenced them for what it was not. Ziegler continued, “it is mostly about being big, beautiful and visually expansive. But everything else that goes behind it, all the social aspects of convincing governments, convincing people, convincing land owners…is the most interesting part of it.”

The show’s press release states that, “Ericson and Ziegler worked with people from outside the academy in ways that incorporated voices too often unheard in the world of contemporary art,” but it seems that the people they worked with are actually too often unheard of in general. Eminent Domain is sometimes criticized for appearing in galleries as it is presented only as a paint chart, disassociating the experience of the work’s participants and highlighting only their plight. This is a common problem of a few pieces in the show and many in their body of work; they are leftover pieces of performances or remnants, missing their original context.

There has been a move away from making pieces distinguished from the audience, setting up the art and the audience as two more or less defined and separate entities, to incorporating an audience and their concerns into the production. It’s a very real likelihood that inviting the audience to become involved can lead to exploitation if their set of concerns are not communicated successfully to a future audience, or if the work is presented to the first audience in one way (as being one thing) and is subsequently presented to another audience as being something else, if the perspective changes. Certainly, this becomes problematic in the process of the transferal of the work from the original activity to it’s presentation and documentation.

It’s inevitable that a piece will lose some meanings and gain others once packaged and represented for art-world purposes. Isn’t that what Art does?

“…big books…”

On the other hand, philosophy has been practised and taught principally by those who, from reading the works of their gloomy predecessors, have but little room left for the feelings, over which they have, as it were, drawn an insensible cuticle, and we have consequently been led through a labyrinth of metaphysical subtlety and wordiness, which have principally served the purpose of producing big books, and disgusting the understanding.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann, The History of Ancient Art, Book IV, Dresden, 1764; translated by Henry Lodge, Boston, MA, 1880.

Why do I post this quote, what purpose can it possibly serve?

There are two reasons why I post it. One is because I feel implicated in it, in that I am attempting to deal with the quote’s target (Art History, Philosophy, “big books”). And, secondly, I do it because I cannot take what I am involved in too seriously, I have to poke fun at it. Although this is admittedly a diversionary tactic—some kind of obfuscation, or attempt to bring it down to earth—it’s also an important method of opening the subject-matter up for analysis.


I’ve written this post to clarify for visitors and for myself what this blog’s reason for being is. This has been occasioned by a friend’s comment that has made me aware that it’s time to take it as seriously as I would like the visitor to take it.

There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking in this list, but it’s helping me to think about and clarify the meanings behind this activity.

The credo of this blog:

  • improve my writing
  • improve my thought processes in order to communicate my ideas and opinions
  • to look to the wider context
  • to clearly and concisely relate events, situations or objects
  • to effectively share material that I enjoy or dislike

The point being:

  • to be able to communicate the excitement I feel when I experience great things
  • to understand and rationalise my reasons for this excitement
  • to intelligently question things that confuse or annoy me
  • to say something new and interesting about all these things

The subject matter will be:

  • Art
  • Culture
  • Technology

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Goldfrapp. Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge. 4 February 2006

As a birthday present for my best friend I got tickets for Goldfrapp’s concert at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, whom we’re both big fans of.

I have to express an interest straightaway – me and my friend were both in the same year at college with Alison, and while I was never really a close friend of hers I have a link to her nonetheless which undoubtedly biases my opinions. I suppose I could easily be quite jealous of her success, but I’m actually really pleased for her – and I like her music, so that’s a bonus.

I get the impression that Cambridge is bit of a backwater on the concert circuit, I think there are a number of other places nearby that could provide alternative and potentially better venues, so I think it’s quite rare for a relatively big name such as Alison to come here. But apparently she’s been here on a previous tour, so perhaps there’s some kind of sentimental link. I’m sure there must also be good economic reasons.

So perhaps unsurprisingly it was a very popular show and I was only able to get seats at the very back of the balcony. And I was only able to get those from a third-party agency as the box-office had sold out, but I figured it was better to go with mediocre seats than to miss the show.

For me the standout aspect of the concert was the quality of the lighting system, producing intense stabs of bright, pure colours and intense white highlights. This was an adaptable system that produced many varied and extremely effective results. One song had strong white top-down spots illuminating the stage, bleaching out the colours, Alison’s top being the only colour – an effect you would expect to see on TV as the result of digital manipulation – this felt very unreal to be seeing in real life.

Alison’s costume was a black body and trousers offset by a loose pink/red pleated top that really stood out as the highlight of the stage. Fans (of the electric kind) placed in front of her blew her top and hair around, in a kind of disco/romantic way.

An oddity in the lighting department were two people with spotlights hanging from the ceiling rig who tested their lights before the show but never turned them on throughout the whole show. One of them was dancing around in his seat for most of the gig. Strangely redundant.

The sound was very bassy, from which the support act – The Shortwave Set – suffered most, their vocals being almost indistinguishable. This was possibly due to our seats being very near the back of the hall (UU23 and 24, only five more rows to the back of the building) – possibly if we had been able to get down into the crowd the sound would have been better. During one quiet song I also realised that the audience was making a hell of a lot of noise, there was an incredible amount of talking going on, not certain if it was from the balcony or the floor. I was constantly distracted by people coming and going and talking. There seemed to be little respect for the show going on.

It was a shame that Goldfrapp didn’t play my favourite song, ‘Pilots’, although there was a good mix of tracks from all the albums otherwise.

The only real musical downside of the evening were The Shortwave Set, who replaced Hot Chip as the support act. They were dull but capable musicians. I found myself feeling very drowsy during their set which may have been down to the cocktails I’d had beforehand, but I think it’s revealing (probably more about my taste in music, admittedly) that they were unable to keep my attention whereas for Goldfrapp I was completely enthralled.

I really love Goldfrapp’s music. My favorite material is from the first two albums, but even the tracks I was less than keen on were enjoyable to hear in this context. This was a great concert and I’d definitely recommend them to anyone.